NORWAY - Norges Bank Investment Management, which runs the NOK1.09trn (€134bn) Petroleum Fund, has set up a new ownership rights group to further its work on corporate governance.

The move comes after the ministry of finance laid down new guidelines covering the way the bank exercises its ownership rights in the second half of 2004.

“The overriding objective shall be to safeguard the Petroleum Fund’s financial interests, and particular emphasis will be placed on the Fund’s strategy of maintaining a long-term and highly diversified investment fund,” the bank said in a statement.

“We think we can achieve a higher return in the future by now systematically determining the requirements that should apply to corporate boards and management and which can gain the support of other owners,” said NBIM executive director Knut Kjær.

Henrik Syse, a senior researcher at the International Peace Research Institute, will head the group in its initial phase from September. His term will last one year.

“I am primarily an ethicist and philosopher, rather than an economist or financial analyst, but I will be working in an environment with enormous expertise in the economics field, and at the same time be allowed to be myself,” said Syse.

“The whole point is to provide new input and different approaches to the bank’s investment management,” he continued. “My task will be to help set the agenda and get off to a good start.”

The team includes Alexander Cappelen, director of the Centre for Ethics and Economy at the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration.

Reuters’ Ola Peter and Krohn Gjessing and Kai Dramer, of the ministry of labour and the Research Council of Norway, have also joined the new venture.

The group will also commission work to Espen Eckbo and Georg Størmer, the deputy chairman of the Oslo Stock Exchange.

“It will now be possible to vote at the general meetings of the vast majority of the 3 200 companies in the portfolios,” said the bank, which has also taken over the exercise.